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The Fallen Star (Fallen Star Series Book 1), Page 11

Jessica Sorensen
Marco and Sophia weren’t there when I got home. I was glad. If I was really lucky then maybe they wouldn’t show up until after Alex left.

  I cleaned my room while I waited for 4:30 to roll around. I also had a temporary loss of sanity when I played around with the idea of changing into something different. I was wearing jeans and a black tee, and they suddenly seemed so plain. But then I realized, who was I trying to kid? It wouldn’t change anything. I would still be socially incompetent, weirdo Gemma with the freaky violet eyes. And besides, I didn’t even own anything other than t-shirts and jeans.

  I turned on some music and started working on the essay until the doorbell rang.

  I trotted down the stairs and opened the front door. Alex stood on the porch, the hood of his jacket pulled over his head as snowflakes drifted down on top of it.

  “Hi.” I opened the screen door and let him in.

  He stepped into the foyer, rubbing his hands together to warm them up as he glanced around at everything. There wasn’t much to look at, though; a small table with a few framed pictures of Marco and Sophia on it, and a large painting of a castle by a lake.

  “So, this is where you live,” he remarked.

  “Yep, this is where I live.” I didn’t mean to sound so unenthusiastic. “My room is upstairs and I figured we could go up there and work on the assignment.”

  “In your room?” He squirmed around uncomfortably, which I thought was odd.

  I gave him a strange look. “If you want, we could work on it at the kitchen table.”

  He shook his head. “No, your room’s fine.”

  I raised my eyebrows. Okay. I gestured for him to follow me as I headed up the stairs.

  My bedroom was very plain, particularly for a teenage girl’s room. I could only imagine what someone like…say…Kelsey Merritt’s room looked like. Or what Aislin’s looked like. There was probably a lot of pink, and a lot of photos hanging on the walls. There was nothing on my walls. I had no rugs to cover up the boring off-white carpet. The only thing that gave it any character was a bookshelf in the corner that held my CDs and books.

  “So, what should we do first?” I asked as Alex glanced around at my stuff. I suddenly felt uncomfortable being up in my room alone with him.

  He traced his fingers along the titles of my CDs. “Should we get the report out of the way first?”

  “Yeah, we could do that. But I’ve already got a lot of it done.”

  He turned and gaped at me. “You already started on it?”

  I nodded. “I worked on it while I was waiting for you to get here. I found a few good ideas and started putting stuff together. Really, there’s not much left to do.”

  He mulled over what I said for longer than what seemed necessary. “You know, it doesn’t seem fair for you to do most of the work on the report, and to also have to help put the map together.”

  “I don’t mind,” I told him. It wasn’t like I had anything better to do. Plus, I loved astronomy.

  He tapped his finger on his bottom lip. “No, it’s not right. I think I’ll just work on the map at home. That way I can make Aislin help.”

  Assuming he was hinting that he wanted to leave, I said, “Okay, if that’s what you want to do then it’s fine by me.” It didn’t feel fine, though. The thought of him leaving made my stomach kind of queasy.

  “So…what do you want to do now then?” he asked me.

  “Huh?” Had I misunderstood him? “Are you staying?”

  “I was planning on it.” He cocked an eyebrow. “That is, unless you don’t want me to.”

  My heart had already been pounding, but now it was in supercharge mode, hammering so viciously that it was making me lightheaded. But not wanting to let on that my heart was reacting so excitedly, I kept cool and gave a half-hearted shrug. “No, you can stay if you want.”

  He pressed his lips together, stifling a smile. “Sure. I don’t have anywhere else to be.”

  What was with him and finding me humorous when I wasn’t trying to be?

  He shucked off his jacket and slung it on the back of the computer chair. Then he pushed up the sleeves of his shirt and sat down backwards in the chair so that he was facing me.

  I shoved my books out of the way and sat down on my bed. The music was still playing—“Ohio for Lovers” by Hawthorne Heights. The slow rhythm of the guitar overtook the silence as I struggled to come up with something to say. Being a lifetime loner, I was completely clueless on how to strike up a conversation. Sure, Alex and I had spent some alone time together, but sitting here in my room with him felt different somehow, and I couldn’t seem to find any words to say to him. Perhaps it was because we were in my room.

  Alone.

  “So…” he finally said, breaking the silence. He rested his arms on the back of the chair and swayed it gently from side to side. “I know I’ve only been around you for a week or so, but it seems like you spend a heck of a lot of time by yourself.”

  “I guess so,” I said.

  “I didn’t mean that in a bad way or anything,” he quickly added. “I was just stating an observation… wondering why?”

  “Wondering why I what? Why I spend my time alone?”

  He nodded. “I’m just curious.”

  “I don’t know…” I trailed off. Honestly, I didn’t have an answer to give him. At least not one I could share without seeming like I belonged in a straitjacket. I picked at a loose string sticking up from my comforter. “It’s just how I’ve always been, I guess.”

  “And it doesn’t bother you being by yourself all the time?”

  I shrugged, staring at the floor. “Not really. Well, maybe lately it has a little.”

  The room quieted except for the low hum of the music. I heard the chair squeak, and the next thing I knew, Alex was climbing off the chair and walking toward me. His hands were in his pockets, and the lack of uncertainty he carried looked out of place on him.

  When he reached my bed, he slid the pile of books out of the way and sat down beside me. We were sitting so close to one another that the only thing between our knees was a whisper of air. My head started buzzing as every single one of my nerves sparked with electricity. I became hyperaware that Alex was sitting next to me on my bed. Holy crap.

  “Where do you think the sudden change came from?” he asked, continuing our conversation right where we left off.

  I had to mentally prepare myself before I spoke, otherwise I would have stammered like an idiot. “I’m not sure.”

  “So, what? You just basically woke up one day and decided you wanted to have friends?”

  Yeah, there was no way I was going to tell him the real reason—that part of the sudden change stemmed from his arrival. “I know it’s weird, isn’t it?”

  “Not necessarily weird, but it is kind of interesting,” he said. “But I find you interesting all together.”

  I traced the circular pattern of the comforter with my finger, feeling extremely uncomfortable with so much of his attention fixed on me. “Trust me, there's nothing interesting about me.” I was kind of lying, I guess, if by interesting he meant the stick-you-under-a-microscope-and-study-you kind of interesting.

  “I think there is.” He paused, casting a brief glance at my computer as the song switched. “I mean, for one thing I find it interesting how long you put up with me being a complete jerk. Not a lot of people would have done that without getting mad and telling me off.”

  “Oh, trust me, I got mad.”

  “Is that what you call it?” he teased.

  “Hey,” I said defensively. “Need I remind you that you’re the one who said I have a temper on me?”

  “Yeah, but it’s more entertaining than anything else.”

  I crossed my arms and stared him down, trying to look as tough as I could. “Oh, really?”

  He laughed. “Yeah, really.”

  I sighed and dropped my arms onto my lap. I guess acting tough wasn’t my forte.

  A funny look passed acr
oss his face, and then suddenly he was leaning in toward me. “You want to know another thing that makes you so interesting?” His low voice sent a shiver down my spine. “That you can feel this electricity thing between us but you won’t say anything about it.”

  I swear my heart actually stopped. “I-I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

  “Yeah, you do.” He leaned in closer to me. If he did it again, our heads would probably be touching. “You can trust me, you know. You can tell me anything.”

  As much as I wanted to believe that was true, I didn’t. Yes, he was being nice to me, but I hadn’t forgotten how he treated me in the beginning. Or about the strange conversation I overheard between him and Aislin in the library.

  He moved even closer. Our heads didn’t touch like I thought they would, but they were close. Oh God, we were so close. “Gemma, I promise, you can trust me.”

  Every inch of my body hummed, and my brain was getting foggy. Maybe I could trust him….

  “Gemma! What are you doing?” Sophia’s sharp voice cut through my thoughts like a sharp knife, and it popped the tension between Alex and me like a needle to a balloon.

  I turned around and found her standing in the doorway, her hand gripped so tightly around the doorknob that her knuckles were paper white. I could only imagine how much this scene looked out of place to her.

  Heck, it seemed out of place to me.

  “Umm…this is Alex,” I told her, motioning at Alex. “We were just working on a project for school.”

  She narrowed her eyes at Alex. “Hello, Alex.”

  Oh my God. This was so embarrassing.

  Alex seemed fine, though. He held her gaze steadily.

  Man, to have such confidence.

  Sophia moved her eyes to me. “It’s time for dinner, so you need to wrap it up and come down and eat.”

  I stared confusedly at her. Eat dinner with them...What the—“Since when do I eat dinner with you guys?”

  She looked like she wanted to strangle me. “Since now.”

  “Fine,” I said, my tone clipped. “I’ll be down in a minute.”

  “Well, hurry up. I don’t want the food to get cold.” She shot another death glare at Alex and then stormed out of the room.

  I turned back to Alex. “I’m so sorry. She’s been kind of crazy lately.”

  He laughed softly. “Yeah...I bet.” He got to his feet and grabbed his jacket off the back of the chair. “Well, I should probably go. I’ll see you in class tomorrow, okay?”

  I nodded. “Yeah, okay.”

  He put his jacket on and started for the door, but stopped in the doorway and turned around. It looked like he wanted to say something, but he couldn’t find the words. Finally, he just waved and walked out.

  I sat there, feeling torn. Part of me felt relieved that he left because, if he stayed, I might have broken down and told him things I didn’t want him to know. I almost had until Sophia walked in. The other part of me, though, wished he had stayed, felt sad that he left.

  I let out a sigh. When did life become so complicated?

  I got up, shut my music off, and headed downstairs for “dinner.” It was weird to picture the three of us sitting around the table like a normal family. In fact, I couldn’t even picture it. It was that strange. But I guess I was about to find out firsthand what it was like to be part of a family.

  Halfway down the stairs, I thought I heard voices coming from the foyer. I didn’t think much of it at first, until I realized who the voices belonged to: Sophia and Alex. Great. She probably cornered him and was saying God knows what.

  This was so freaking embarrassing.

  I sped down the stairs—I needed to end this quick. But just before I reached the bottom, I heard something that made me slow down.

  “You know the rules, Alex.” Sophia’s tone was razor-sharp. “So you should know better than to be getting close to her.”

  I stopped dead in my tracks. Rules? What was going on?

  “Yeah, I know the rules.” The sharpness of Alex’s tone matched Sophia’s. “But need I remind you that Stephan sent me here to get some answers from her? And in order to do that, I need to get close to her.”

  Stephan. There was that name again. The same one I heard him mention during my eavesdropping session in the library.

  “That’s not what you’re doing,” she snapped. “You’re crossing the line, Alex. A very thin, dangerous line.”

  “I think you’re forgetting that I don’t take my orders from you.” Alex lowered his voice, and I had to lean forward on my tiptoes in order to make out what he said. “I’ll do what I need to do in order to get her to—”

  I lost my balance and, being the graceful queen that I was, stumbled forward, banging my elbow into the wall. “Ah!” I cried out, and then threw my hand over my mouth. Crap.

  A few moments ticked by. Had they heard me? Of course they heard me. They weren’t deaf.

  “Gemma,” Sophia called out.

  Rubbing my elbow, I slowly made my way down the rest of the stairs, my legs feeling like two flimsy wet noodles beneath my weight.

  Sophia was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs, hands on her hips, her eyes a fiery bright gold. “What in the world are you doing?” she asked.

  I pressed my lips together and looked over at Alex. He was casually leaning against the front door, his arms folded across his chest. He met my gaze, appearing not the slightest bit concerned. But it seemed like he should be.

  I turned my attention back to Sophia. Every once in a while, when she got really, really mad, this faint bluish-purple vein would pop out on her forehead. Right now, I could see it bulging underneath her pale skin.

  “I came down to get something to eat like you told me to,” I told her, still staring at the vein. It reminded me of a gross bluish-purple worm.

  “Gemma, what on earth are you looking at?” Sophia barked.

  I flinched and shook my head. “What’s going on here between you two?” I asked. “And why were you guys talking about me like that?”

  She gave me a patronizing look. “Like what, Gemma?”

  “Like, you know.” I waved my hand in the air, trying to come up with a word to sum up what I just heard.

  Alex shifted his weight away from the door and raised his eyebrows questioningly at me.

  What were they trying to do here? Make me look like a crazy idiot? If they were, they were doing a pretty good job of it.

  “Look, I don’t know what you think you heard,” Sophia said, her tone tolerant. “But we weren’t talking about you. I know Alex’s father, and I was just telling him to pass along a message for me.”

  My anger simmered. She was such a liar. “That’s such bull. You were talking about me. I heard you.”

  She waved her finger at me furiously. “You better watch your tone, young lady. I mean it.” I opened my mouth to say a few choice words that I think, under the circumstances, would have been appropriate, but she cut me off before I could even get the first one out. “Now, I don’t know why on earth you think you have the right to listen in on other people’s conversations, but you need to stop. Do you understand me?”

  I eyed her over suspiciously. Was there a hidden meaning to her words? Did she know what happened at the library? But if she did, who told her?

  I think I had a guess.

  Without another word, I pushed by her, heading for the kitchen. Before I disappeared through the doorway, I glanced back at Alex.

  Now he looked worried.

  Chapter 10